reaping the cost of solitude

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Violence in Malapascua

April 19. We were at a dinner buffet by the beach after a long day of snorkeling. People had already begun helping themselves to a second serving when we heard the first gunshot. We looked at each other and quickly faced the direction where we thought the sound came from. Another gunshot. And another. Then another. No one knew for certain that these were indeed gunshots, which sounded more like a set of puny, out-of-season firecrackers; but people were starting to feel alarmed. The noise ultimately came from a little scuba diving shop right beside the restaurant and the people nearby started moving closer to take a peek and see what was going on. Everyone else was paying attention now.

"Our manager is being shot!"

Chaos broke out. In a rush of panic, everyone frantically left their seats and scampered to safety. People were spilling their drinks, fumbling over chairs and tables; and those who had never used their legs to run in the past decade or so began running now. Some ran back to their rooms and locked themselves in, others took cover in the sand dunes, and the rest just ran off into the dark. In seconds, the place was completely deserted, but everyone kept a watchful eye from a safe distance.

Two or three more gunshots could be heard. Some fearless (or crazy) bystanders every now and then would sneak up close to take a peek only to run away seconds later. People in the shadows were now on their phones, trying to contact the police. All everyone knew at that point was the manager was being slaughtered inside his own dive shop and the police had yet to arrive.

After 15 or 20 minutes I saw the first policeman. He was dressed in civilian clothes and was carrying a rifle - which looked like an M-16. He took a glimpse from afar, surveyed what he could, always moving back and forth, and decided to move closer. I did not see anything else from my vantage point, but no gunshots were exchanged and no noises could be heard. A few moments later, one or two people came into the open and began flailing their arms to all the people who were watching at a safe distance, and when we got the message, everyone started moving back to the dive shop to see what had happened.

The gunner was already handcuffed. He was the security guard of the dive shop. A Filipino. Not a resident of Malapascua Island, but he allegedly hailed from Samar. He shot his European boss (I'm not sure of his exact nationality) using his standard-issue revolver. He emptied all eight (or six?) bullets, stopped and reloaded the remaining three bullets he had on him and emptied it again. He was out of ammo when the police arrived. He was drunk. And drunk he showed up for work. Apparently, the manager had nothing of it and fired him on the spot. He was handing over his uniform, and was also about to hand over his service firearm when he decided to shoot the manager instead.

The manager was carried all the way to the beach where a boat bound for Maya waited. He was still breathing. There were no hospitals nor clinics in Malapascua so he had to be taken to the mainland to receive proper treatment. The gunner, met by scorn from the multitude of onlookers, boarded the same boat together with the policemen and collectively vanished into the dark.

We would later learn that the manager died from his injuries before they could reach the mainland.

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